Lily Franz

Lily Franz
  • Version 1.0
  • Last edited 22 November 2023

Adele ‘Lily’ Franz was born on 24 January 1924 in Neustädtel in Upper Silesia (Germany) and was the eldest daughter in a family of seven children. Her father Julius Franz (unknown–1964) was a musician and horse dealer. Her mother Anne Franz (1903–1944) earned a living by selling haberdashery. In the summer the Franz family practised their travelling trade – in Upper Silesia until the late 1920s, and later around Hildesheim, in west-central Germany, where the family had a winter residence.

On 13 June 1938, Julius Franz was arrested near Kassel in the course of Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich. For a long time, it remained unclear to Julius Franz’ family where he was and whether he was still alive. According to Lily Franz, her mother even hired lawyers to find out her husband’s whereabouts. Only in 1942 did it become clear that he was imprisoned in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. On 2 March 1943, the rest of the Franz family was also arrested and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp after being held for two days in the Hildesheim police station. In Section BIIe Lily Franz was given the number ‘Z-562’. She was put to work there; with other women and children, she had to build roads with cobblestones and coal dust.

The conditions in the camp were so terrible that after a few weeks she was on the verge of ending her life herself. But she took new courage. Through a compassionate Polish prisoner, Lily Franz managed to get a better job in the administrative office—the ‘Schreibstube’. Together with two other women, she had to keep track of who was still alive in Section BIIe and who had died. With these two other young Sintizze, Lily Franz made a pact: they would stay together as long as the war lasted. In her autobiography, she only refers to these two women by their first names—Rosa and Liesbeth. Based on the information about their work together in the ‘Schreibstube’, the further course of their imprisonment and their subsequent escape, it was possible to determine that they were the cousins Elisabeth Schneck, later Schneck-Guttenberger (born 1926), and Rosa Höllenreiner (unknown–unknown).1Nerdinger, Die Verfolgung, 224–225; Stengel, Bezweifelte Glaubwürdigkeit, 449.

In the more than sixteen months that Lily Franz was interned in Auschwitz-Birkenau, she became seriously ill several times. Whenever she was ill, she was nursed by Polish prisoner and medical student Zbigniew Glowacki (1921–2012). They fell in love and started a relationship, but lost each other in the course of the war.

In July 1944, Lily Franz was transferred to Ravensbrück with a group of young women. After a week, she was moved to Graslitz, a satellite camp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Here she was put to work in a munitions factory. After eight months in Graslitz, she was sent west on a death march in the face of the advancing Allies. Near where the Czech border is now located, Lily Franz and her friends Rosa Höllenreiner and Elisabeth Schneck—with whom she was still together—managed to escape.

After the liberation, Lily Franz found herself with a number of Dutch survivors in the Displaced Persons Camp Erfurt. There she met her later husband Leo Jansen (unknown-unknown), with whom she traveled west. She ended up in the Netherlands by chance—the train unexpectedly did not stop in Hanover, her desired destination. Leo Jansen and his family took Lily Franz under their wing and in 1947 the couple married. They had four children. From her hometown of Woerden, Lily Jansen tried for years to find out something about her family. Only in 1952 did she learn that only her father and her sister Waltraud Franz (1929–unknown) had survived the war.

In the first decades after the liberation, Lily Jansen was unable to speak about the war. When asked about her ancestry, she said she was from Hungary. It was not only a form of self-protection, but also to keep her children safe. After the death of her husband Leo Jansen she remarried Nico van Angeren (1936–1997).

However, starting in the 1980s, Lily van Angeren-Franz began to speak publicly about her wartime experiences. She was one of the most important witnesses in the trial against Ernst-August König (1919–1991), one of the guards in Auschwitz-Birkenau, because she remembered many names from the time she had been imprisoned. She also gave guest lectures at schools. In 1994 Lily van Angeren-Franz spoke to the Dutch ‘O Drom’ magazine about the effect the war had had on her life and in 1997 her biography ‘Lily. Het unieke verhaal van een zigeunerin’ [Lily. The unique life story of a gypsy] was published. In 2003, the editors of the Dutch television program ‘Memories succeeded in tracking down Zbigniew Glowacki and reuniting the couple. Since the liberation, it had been unclear to her whether he had also survived.

Lily van Angeren-Franz died on 7 March 2011 in Woerden. In 2015, a street in Hildesheim was named after her.


  • 1
    Nerdinger, Die Verfolgung, 224–225; Stengel, Bezweifelte Glaubwürdigkeit, 449.


Bas Kortholt: Lily Franz, in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 1. November 2023. -

13. – 18. Juni 1938Während der „Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich“ werden erstmals größere Gruppen von Sinti und Roma verhaftet und in die Konzentrationslager Buchenwald, Dachau und Sachsenhausen, Deutschland, eingeliefert.
26. Februar 1943Die ersten Sinti:ze und Rom:nja werden auf der Grundlage des „Auschwitz-Erlasses“ in das Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager Auschwitz-Birkenau in den Lagerabschnitt BIIe deportiert. Ab dem 1. März 1943 treffen fast täglich weitere Deportationszüge mit Sinti:ze und Rom:nja ein.
1. September 1944Dem Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg werden die Außenlager Graslitz, Wolkenburg und Zwodau unterstellt, die bis dahin Ravensbrück zugeordnet waren. In diesen Außenlagern befinden sich mehr als 500 Sintize und Romnja, unter ihnen Lily van Angeren-Franz, Rosa Höllenreiner und Elisabeth Schneck-Guttenberger, die während eines Todesmarsches fliehen.